Hollywood Heist: How a Burglary May Impact the Future Of 'Superman' (Analysis)
On Wednesday, Judge Zarefsky ruled that Warners should have access to those previously stolen documents.
He based the decision on the fact that Toberoff had already disclosed the nature of those documents to law enforcement authorities who were investigating the theft. In other words, Toberoff became victimized twice by the burglary of those documents. Judge Zarefsky found that Toberoff "could have responded to the subpoena by standing on [attorney-client] privilege," but didn't.
In making the ruling, Zarefsky noted that the Ninth Circuit has never addressed the issue of whether stolen documents in a criminal investigation could be used in a civil matter.
Contacted for comment, Toberoff says he's considering appealing the decision to federal judge Otis Wright, who oversees the case.
Assuming Warners gets the go-ahead, it believes it will now have documents that purportedly show what it has suspected all along -- that Toberoff persuaded the Siegels and Shusters to act in concert and deprive the studio of Superman rights.
This doesn't necessarily mean that Toberoff did anything wrong. It's more than possible that a judge will see Toberoff's work as garden-variety client solicitation rather than a shady business arrangement, and it's also reasonable that a judge will see the Siegels and Shusters teaming together as nothing more than some form of collective bargaining unit.
In the meantime, though, Warners gets access to evidence to help support its arguments against Toberoff. Plus, the studio continues to make life difficult for him.
But the studio isn't getting everything it wants. For example, Petrocelli wanted to explore the full nature of the relationship between Toberoff and Emanuel (and indeed has deposed Emanuel in this case, we've learned). But the judge is only making Toberoff produce documents pertaining to Superman, Superboy, the Siegels and the Shusters.
As they say in the comics business, to be continued...